My blog is two years old this week and I’m still a happy writer. The subscriber base is at 250. While that readership isn’t what I hoped for, it is definitely more than I expected. I love the instant gratification of blogging. On the other hand…
I have always been impatient. Being in a hurry runs in my family, so I suppose it is in my DNA. Or maybe we were just birds in a flurry who flocked together and called ourselves the Whitaker-Claypool species.
All I can tell you is that nothing I do is ever enough at the same time I’ve always enjoyed every job I ever had. I find work fascinating. When I followed my bliss it turned out to be more work.
In my lifetime, I’ve had excellent jobs in fashion sales, teaching, folk-art shopkeeping, real estate, writing and the ministry. Work was always a source of enjoyment for me and probably will always be. I am especially happy writing my blog although I’d hoped to sell more of my books off the blog bookstore than I have so far. My plan was that if readers liked my for-free blogs, they’d love my for-sale books. Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and writers.
So far, my business plan hasn’t exactly worked. But, it really isn’t about the money. It’s about connection – connection to God, to you, and to myself. Work is about expressing my God-given nature – Love. Every job I’ve ever had was of use to others or I had to move on. I could not imagine only helping myself.
Retirement frightened me. When I moved into the Minister Emeritus position at church, I wasn’t well. Actually, I was very ill and I got better. I taught a few classes and spoke some but I still had a lot of free time and it scared me. Does free time frighten you?
In the beginning of my semi-retirement, I read a lot of silly novels and watched a lot of silly movies. That was fun but then it wasn’t so much fun anymore. I wanted to be useful again.
I did start a book on Spiritual Practice and, once again, I was impatient. The project seemed like a big commitment, and I was busy helping other people write their books. (My Spiritual Practice book really is almost finished and I’m telling myself not to be impatient.) Books are not short adventures – they are a serious undertakings.
In contrast, blogs are pure fun. My blog has been well received. After a bit of practice, I can write and publish a blog in four to six hours. That’s a good day’s work for a retired person.
I know there are more readers than those listed as subscribers. I get nice comments and people they tell me they enjoy the essays. At our recent CSL Conference at Asilomar, several people I didn’t know complimented my blog. Recently, a few ministers asked me questions about writing a blog of their own. I definitely encouraged them.
I believe everyone can enjoy blogging. It is a chance to help others and learn more about yourself. It is useful. The time involved and the subject matter are optional. I am fussy and I write long posts. Many people write only a few daily lines. Nearly all of us have used journaling as a self-discovery tool. A blog is only a couple of steps away from journaling. Blogs can also be a spiritual practice.
One difference stands out. Your journal is personal while a blog is intended for others to read. The writer must offer something that amuses, inspires, instructs, or connects with his readers. That said, no topic is for everyone but there is someone for every topic.
Are you interested in writing a blog? The first step is to imagine what your might like to write about and who you think your audience may be. Freedom to write whatever I wanted was important to me. I decided I could include memories and opinions about political and social issues as well as spiritual principles. I would aim for twice a week but give myself permission to skip once in a while.
Blogging is a great if you have something unique to say. Whoever you are, no matter what you know, you must plan before you begin. This stage will be short for some and take a long time for others but it must be done.
Your chosen topic should also be something that will hold your interest and something you know about. Simply musing about the good old days will bore your readers unless you are as clever as Andy Rooney. I do write about them sometimes, but I attempt to make the old days relevant to my reader’s current life.
Whether you are interested in blogging or not, you might enjoy perusing other blogs on the internet. Individual blogs have “tags” so you can run searches easily. Keep your searches current and subscribe to the ones you enjoy. I subscribe to several blogs about books and history. What topics would you like to explore?
If you are personally interested in blogging ask yourself what topics you know about. Why not spend time for a few days making list of subjects you know about as a part of your spiritual practice?
Topics for blogs are fascinating but they don’t have to be rocket science. There are blogs on cooking cassarole dishes, grammer, Greek history, raising triplets, aiding the elderly and losing weight, and thousands of other subjects.
Blog subjects are so creative they amaze us. One writer wrote a blog for my local paper about living on the State’s food subsidy money. There was a movie about Julia Child and a young woman who set out to cook every recipe in Child’s cookbook. It was based on her blog.
What do you know about? It will be a great spiritual practice for improving your self -esteem to list topics. You will be surprised how many activities and interests you are proficient in when you do this.
Before you begin to actually write your blog, learn from every writing class I’ve ever taken by imagining your ideal reader. Who is she? What do you know that she doesn’t? That’s a great way to find your topics for posts.
The next writing lesson I can pass on is to ask yourself what you enjoy reading . That may give you a clue about what you should write. F/Y/I I read two spiritual blogs every day and although my blogs don’t resemble them, they inspire me. These blogs are from Dr. Carol Carnes and Dr. Maxine Kaye. You can access them by going to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
Just for fun, pretend you believe you have something to say and you know you are powerful . Your pretense or “acting as if” will be exciting and instructive. Go through the suggested blog planning steps and see what happens.
Do I journal now?
Would I like to blog?
What blogs do I read?
What do I know about?
Who would like to read about my knowledge?
Jane is 15 years old and a winner in the Los Angeles City Schools Speech Contest. Now she’s on stage, competing at the Southern California level. The judges are so sure she’ll win they told her to bring a packed bag to fly directly to Sacramento for the finals.
Her bag isn’t packed because she’s learned,“Don’t count your chickens before they are hatch.”
She is doing a great job speaking until she looks out at the audience and sees her boyfriend who is a college speech major. Her mother and sister are also in front, looking anxious and worried.
She goes blank! The last paragraph disappears completely from her mind. She says, “I’ve forgotten,” and walks off the stage. Later, one judge tells her she would have won anyway if she’d just walked away and said nothing.
Everyone is very nice to her. Her mother is sweet and her boyfriend takes her out for ice cream. She doesn’t speak publically for many, many years.
Fear of success is a common phenomenon. It is learned early, and many of us retain it all our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to win or we are not smart or talented enough. Sometimes we believe no one will love us for ourselves if we are too successful.
Many people can’t just step forward and seek success. They approach ambition very timidly or not at all. Maybe they have ordinary jobs, but they aren’t reaching for the stars. That’s fine if they want to arrange their lives so they can do other things but it isn’t fine if they yearn for more money, acknowledgement or promotions.
Going directly after success in business, or in the creative arts may seem frightening or unobtainable. Some of us avoid trying to catch the brass ring because we don’t want to risk failure. But that is a kind of failure, isn’t it?
All work has value as long as it is life affirming. There is nothing wrong with being a gardener, housewife, carpenter, schoolteacher or junior partner in the family business. The difficulty comes when we are frustrated and resent what we are doing.
I carried that speech contest failure with me for many years as one more proof that I was no good. Usually, I blamed myself but sometimes I blamed my mother or boyfriend. Disappointment, handled incorrectly, can turn poisonous.
In order to succeed, we need to release the anger and accept responsibility for going after what we want. We may not always get everything we want in life, but we won’t get much of anything unless we identify the goal and take sensible steps in the right direction.
If you are feeling stuck or have resentment, you have some work to do. One risk – free way to begin is by private journaling. You can dream independently without allowing other people’s ideas to cloud your thinking. Just begin by jotting down your thoughts and include the things you think you might like to do. Allow yourself the freedom to dream a bit. It’s fun and not a commitment. You first step is just to loosen up.
There is no responsibility attached to this initial journaling exercise, just acknowledging your desires is enough. Many people have a very hard time saying, “I want to retire at 50” or “I want to remarry”, or “I want to be promoted to general manager of my branch.”
As you write, ask yourself what you think success looks like for you. We are unique individuals so answers will vary. Maybe you are making loads of money but have always wanted to paint. Maybe you already have the life you want but you want to believe in yourself and think you are a success, not a failure. You need to change your thinking. Your success is what you believe it is, not what others tell you.
After you have some clarity, you are ready to take steps. You can’t stand back and say, “Oh, I’m not good enough!” or “I could never do that!” You have to speak up and step out. No one can do it for you. Nor can you hang out and hope for a magical memo or a big break.
The Creative Nature of the Universe (God working as Spiritual Law) is responsive and we must be the initiator. We need to take the first step toward the goal. I believe that first step should be a consistent prayer for the desired goal.
The next step will include things that seem possible and logical. For example, if you want to be a writer you probably shouldn’t quit your day job. First, you might take writing classes then get out and meet others in the publishing business, as you prepare yourself for your new writing career.
We you take these positive steps, you show Spiritual Law that you have changed your mind about success. As your prevailing belief system changes, Spiritual Law will kick in and help you achieve your dreams.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t insist everything needs to change overnight. Notice the small positive changes and encourage and praise yourself . Take your self-discovery steps, and make minor adjustments in your beliefs and behavior. Be happy along the way. Being happy actually helps. Life does not have to be a struggle.
It is true you must do the preparation and it is also true that God will support you but there is always more to learn and work to do. Getting an MBA doesn’t guarantee a fast rise in business, you must also be ready to take responsibility for the big decisions. You must lead without blame or anger. So your spiritual practice is a necessary part of your preparation for you success as well as for maintenance.
Remember you get to decide. You don’t have to get that MBA if you don’t want to. Wearing a business suit, earning a lot of money and working long hours is not success for everyone. We are free to design our success and we are also free to modify our goals as we get new information.
Know you are in touch with Unlimited Power and Unlimited Possibility. God responds to your prevailing belief system now. Aa your spiritual practice brings you clarity and new beliefs, your life changes. It takes courage to change but it gets easier, when we know God is working for us. I never achieved the high school speaker championship because that ship had sailed. However, I did speak successfully for many years after I discovered there was a Power for Good and I could use it.
That same Power is in your life. Take a pro-active approach and you will get the promotion or the new job or whatever you claim as success. Go for it.
1. Am I blaming anyone else for my trouble?
2. Do I believe I am a failure or success right now?
3. What would I like to change?
4, What would I want my increased success to look like?
(Note this post is adapted from my book, Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues)It is available from the blog bookstore.
My blog readership is growing. That’s good! I have a goal I know I will reach because I am writing in integrity, love and joy. However, I sometimes think of “get popular quick schemes” and that means I’m pushing the river again. Addiction happens in peculiar ways!
No matter how much one loves a project, the joy will disappear when racing to an arbitrary goal becomes more important than the process itself. The whole point of this blog was to create something in freedom and offer it to anyone who wanted it. It is supposed to be fun.
So what does that have to do with counting numbers? I’m not working on commission or earning brownie points to get into heaven. Once again, I am reminding myself to let go and let God. I don’t ever need to struggle.
After all these years, I know myself pretty well and I know that one part of my personality part is accustomed and addicted to struggle. I call her “The Strider”. She says, “Not enough” or “It should be better,” quite often. The Strider can squeeze the fun out of any project if I am not aware of her tricks.
It is easy to slip into old ways if I am not watching. I struggled to get through college. I struggled to build a writing career. I struggled with alcohol and food and in many other things when I was younger. Truth is, I can use any goal as a piece of torture equipment if I’m not careful.
I have learned a lot about addiction and I have learned to watch out for the symptoms. Writing, for me, is particularly addictive, but I need to remember that I undertook this blog as a service to others and as a retirement hobby. In this moment, I release the need to count readers and I simply return to writing for fun. I don’t have to prove anything.
I am not alone. Work addiction of one sort or another happens to wonderful people. It sneaks up on you, even in your retirement years. In fact, so many ministers “fail retirement” that is kind of a joke.
Addictive personalities will push themselves at work, at home, on the road or in the studio. I have a good friend who was practicing yoga at age 65. She was a marvel. She could do so much, so easily, that she constantly amazed us all. We were all proud of her and she never seemed to show off or be ego driven about her expertise. She did, however, really want to stand on her head. We prayed for that in church. When she got so she could do that well, she upped the ante and wanted to stand on her head longer. One day her guru advised her, “Take the ambition out of your practice.”
When she shared that story with me, I thought, “I should take that advice myself.” Of course, I failed exercise class in the 7th grade and it didn’t bother me. I can’t bend over too well and I certainly don’t plan to stand on my head ever – at least in this lifetime. However, I do try to remember and take her teacher’s excellent advice. I do not want to be a slave to ambition. Do you?
We all know people who seem to be in a frenzy about how they are using their time and what they are or are not accomplishing. The idea of living in a frenzy doesn’t appeal to me. Does it appeal to you? Does the idea of taking the ambition out of your pursuits appeal to you? Sounds good to me.
Of course, ambition can be fine as long as we are making decisions that create a healthy, well-balanced life. But if you feel as though you are struggling to get it all done, you may want to make changes. One of the greatest gifts of our Religious Science teaching is knowing we always have a choice.
The question of how hard to work is one that touches all of us at some time or another. In our youth, our ambition may get us where we think we want to go but if we don’t balance it with loving connections to others, we become unhappy and distorted.
In our middle years, ambition takes many forms including working hard to persuade others, to train our children into our beliefs and to forge ahead in the workplace. Again, we get out of balance if we don’t take care of our bodies and our spiritual lives.
Retirement years are the biggest temptation for many of us. We have choices about how to spend our time and can very well end up staying so busy we neglect our spiritual practice and our bodies and minds. Inaction leads to disuse. Too much action leads to fatigue.
Throughout our lives, we face many questions about our goals and exactly how ambitious we should be. Should I persevere? Should I delay gratification until I get my goal? Should I pile up more money for the future? Should I keep exercising until I “feel the burn”? Should I stay in the marriage and find some way to make it work?
When you look at life’s big questions in the framework of whether or not to live for today or tomorrow, it seems as though life really is an art or dance. We each have to find our own balance. We have to make our own decisions. We have to decide how much energy to put into this or that project.
I talk to people all the time who are in a quandary about how to spend their time and money. I try to help them see they are always at choice, one way or another. There is always something we can choose to do and since balance is constant movement, there is always a need for adjustment.
Making new choices is easier than it looks. We can choose whatever is the apparent step in this moment to move us in the direction of our dreams and let God do the rest. We don’t need to torture ourselves with the past or try to control the future. We just move ahead a step at a time and enjoy life. We can feel good about what we are doing because God is good all the time.
When I get out of balance and start rushing, I remind myself to release the ambition and enjoy the process. The future will take care of itself. I have learned to envision a goal and believe in it and then give it to God to do the work. It is not necessary to struggle or worry about making it happen.
As of now, I am back in balance. This day I am simply writing what I know and sending it out with love. I know the perfect right readers will find it.
Am I struggling to make something happen?
Do I need a new balance?
What immediate choice am I able to make?
Do I want to release the ambition?
A good friend has been away for three weeks and I was very happy to talk with her this morning. She is a treasure who has been in my life for at least twenty years. A far-away friend is visiting next week; she is a treasure I have known even longer. I consider all my friends – new and longer – true treasures.
I’m not the only one who thinks her friends are treasures. Louisa Mae Alcott said, “A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.” I have no idea what Louisa Mae was defending herself against with her friendships but I do know how my friends enhance my life in many ways.
Good friends bring me joy. When I am connected at a heart level, I can actually feel joy for their blessings and achievements in life. I can participate in my friend’s delight because her daughter is gets into a good college. Good friends enable me to embrace a wider world.
They also make me stretch and grow. I can be thrilled when my friend’s book makes the bestseller list. Good friends enable me to dilute that grizzly old error of competiveness.
Another blessing that good friends bring me is a window on the world. Often, my friends and I have very different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and histories. I have several friends who grew up in upper middle class families and went to prep school and Ivy League colleges. They help me understand an American experience that is very different from my beginnings.
I also have friends who are immigrants from England, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Peru, China, and Korea. They help me see the United States in its very best light. My treasured friends make me less insular in my world view.
Having friends with very different backgrounds requires me to accept them as they are and not waste time wondering why they aren’t exactly like me. I don’t look for agreement. Like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.
I have been blessed with good friends all my adult life. It started in high school when I gave up trying to be “in” with the most popular crowd and began to choose own friends. One of them was a girl of Japanese-American background who had just left an internment camp. She showed me what meticulous ambition could look like and she went on to be head nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. She taught me a lot. When you look back at your early friendships, can you see how they helped you learn new lessons?
Of course, friendships blossom and wane. There were many wonderful people in my past who are no longer on my active friend list. Times change. People move away or die. Interests disappear. It doesn’t mean I treasure them less, just that I don’t see them as often.
When I was a young mother, my best friends and I shared our love for our children and our concern for their growth. I learned from them all – the mothers and the children.
I learned a profound lesson from a friend I didn’t really think was a very good mother. She had a drinking problem and I’m happy to report that she eventually gave up alcohol. After her daughter was grown, she told me that her daughter said, “You don’t need to feel guilty, Mom. You gave me the greatest gift of all – you showed me that people can change.”
We can all change and that is one of life’s greatest lessons. I have made plenty of mistakes over the years and I have leaned on that story. I assuage my guilt by reminding myself of my friend’s experience. Have you learned any profound lessons from your friend’s problems?
Do you have friends that share your dreams? When I was a beginning writer I belonged to a group that met weekly to share their hopes, dreams and writing experiences. They were very, very good friends for several years and then I moved away and I also lost interest in writing young adult books.
I found my some of my strongest, and longest friendships when I got sober. I will always be grateful to my Twelve Step friends. They were there for me when I most needed a friend. My sponsor was such a good friend that I still miss him although he’s been gone for at least eight years. There were many others. I treasure their memories because they saved me from my very worst self-destructive self. What more could anyone ask of a friend?
Most of my current friendships are people I meet in the ministry. Some are members of my own center. Others are ministers and former ministers I know through the Religious Science organization. We all share an interest in using Science of Mind in our lives. That makes us mutually supportive and lovely to be with. No gossip. No rivalries. No “ain’t it awful” conversation. My Science of Mind friends help me remember that God is Love.
Actually, all my friends have taught me that God is love, and that life is good. I cannot imagine going through life without good, strong friendships. We all need to be connected to others. We can actually experience the concept of God as love when we are with our friends.
One of the most important things that religion provides is a sense of unity with life. Whether it is sitting on a park bench with other parents watching our toddlers play or holding the hand of our friend who has received bad news, we feel connected when we are with friends. We treasure that feeling of togetherness.
Friends are important. We need to reach out, nurture and consciously grow friendships with others. It is wise to be wise to be pro-active about friendships. I have observed, over the years, that many people feel isolated. When others reach out to them, they say yes, but they don’t always make the initial invitation to friendship.
If you want more friends, you need to put aside any old beliefs and be assertive. Why not make a few overtures yourself? Why not ask someone to go out for coffee after the meeting? Why not make a phone call to someone you haven’t seen for a while? Why not introduce yourself to the church newcomer? Those are all simple first steps anyone can take.
Do I treasure my friends?
Is there an old friend I want to reconnect with?
Is there someone new I’d like to know better?